Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Would you care for some pics?

In case the answer is yes... here are some.

The tent (sans the side walls still) went up again yesterday, for another test standing in the garden. While I am able to pitch it single-handedly, it is certainly much, much easier with somebody to help. I danced with the tent on my own once in the afternoon, and we put it up again together in the evening to measure for the side walls again (measure thrice, cut once, or something like that) and check which constructive details needed some more work or a twist. There are quite a few of them (that's the bad news), but the good news is that the tent seems to be moderately stable already in its not-quite-finished state, without the side walls in (which will add stability) and without any pegs and lines (which I hope not to really need, but we will add them just to be sure for good weather and to keep things from flying away in bad weather).

That's how it currently looks. The front still sags (something which I hope to remedy today), and the rolled-up front flap needs some fixtures to serve, half-rolled up, as a projective roof.

And another, very important piece of good news: I seem to have found the right dilution for my waterproofing venture of the cloth - I will be going with water-based sanitary silicone rubber, since I finally found out how to get a testing scrap absolutely waterproof after one application.

And something totally not related to the tent-making saga: We had a friend visiting us yesterday evening, and I made good double use of our chat during the evening by knitting along. Which means that I got a good bit further on the thing on the needles - and here's another teaser pic of it.

I love this structure!

Tuesday, 30 March 2010


Contrary to how it commonly goes, I actually did manage to finish the long tunnel, completely sew in the second short tunnel, and make another waterproofing test run yesterday. I wouldn't have thought that I really would get all of this done! In addition to that, the most patient and helpful of all men started on the front hem yesterday and thus took a bit more load off my shoulders concerning the stall.

And all that meant that yesterday evening I found the leisure to take out my knitting again for two rows, for the first time since Sunday the week before last. The thing seems to turn out just like I planned, but I don't think I can get it into the testknitting stage before Freienfels, even with the rows now getting shorter and shorter quite fast. I'm a bit sorry about that - I would have liked to finish off that knitting-design project and tackle the next one, but the market stall (and then preparing the things to sell - my gold thread has arrived) has to come first.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Time really flies...

On to another day at the tent - which really has to get finished one of these days, and there's still quite a bit to do. At least I have almost finished one of the long tunnels that will (hopefully) keep the fabric in the roof part more or less taut; I only have to close it with one 2,30 m whipstitch seam now. I have to do another test run for the waterproofing (also on the plan for today) to figure out the best ratio stuff:water when diluting the stuff to make it applicable. And there's one more short tunnel for the back horizontal bar to sew in, and then there's mostly only the sides, hems and the small stuff to do.  According to experience, though, the small stuff takes abnormally long (and always much longer than expected).

I wonder if that means that if I now adjust my expectations to a ridiculously short time for the finishing touches - will it go faster? Obviously there's no use in expecting a more realistic figure, since it will take longer anyways, right?

Friday, 26 March 2010

Is it Friday already?

We had some fun in the evening in the garden yesterday, taking care of some of the sweaty tasks like starting to build a slightly raised vegetable bed with old compost earth and removing some of the lawn thatch. Slowly but surely, things are coming along in the garden - and of course the tulips are growing! But to me, the best thing about the garden is the gazillions of birds landing on the front lawn and the flower beds for their breakfast. Blackbirds especially - and I am very fond of blackbirds!

Slowly but surely is the proper description for the tent progress as well, and the rest of today will also be tent-sewing time. I have dug out a radio drama CD full of stories from "Jonas, der letzte Detektiv" (Jonas, the last Private Eye), a sci-fi detective story with a really high body-count - but wonderful to listen to. The series is from 1984 and following years, and the author, Michael Koser, did write about some things that are getting more and more realistic, which makes the series a little unnerving at times. If you understand German and can get your hands on that series, I can highly recommend it!

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Another exciting link!

In addition to the nice stuff from yesterday, there's good news for those of you interested in the garments from Skjoldehamn:

Dan Halvard Løvlid has finished his thesis about the Skjoldehamn garments, and it is available as free pdf! You can download the file from

It's in Norwegian, but there are English captions for the pictures with some information.

Also available is an article from Dan Halvard about the connection between the Skjoldehamn costume and Sami costumes, available here:
Have fun!

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Links to Things

A few things/notices/links have accumulated again, and here's getting them out to you:

 - The European Association of Archaeology will have its annual meeting 1-5 September, in the Netherlands. The conference will include a session called "Threads to the past: novel methods for investigation of archaeological textiles and other organic materials". You can get more info on the conference homepage

 - The International Symposium and Exhibition on Natural Dyes and Colorants (ISEND) 2011 Europe will take place in La Rochelle, on the west coast of France, from 24 - 30 April 2011. Call for Papers is still open until 30 April 2010. You can find more information about ISEND 2011 Europe on the website

 - And don't forget the Textile Forum Call for Papers and registration!

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Gold! Gold!

The long-time readers here will maybe remember that a good while ago, I posted about finding somebody who could make a gold thread like it was used in the 12th century, and trying to guess the market for that.

I think I never really gave you an update on all that. Well, I did decide to take the plunge and put in an order for the gold thread, and meanwhile it has been all produced and should be on its way here shortly - just in time to make a few nice little goldwork packets for Freienfels.

The company who makes the gold thread is one of the last few left of that kind, and they have an impressive workshop, as you can see in this little documentary film (in French) that ran on TF1, a french "journal" tv show. If you don't understand French, watch it anyways, you're in for a treat if you like old(ish) weaving looms and textile machines!

Monday, 22 March 2010

It's spring, finally.

The snow has been all gone here for a few days now, and the temperatures are high enough to go out without a jacket on the warmer days. Most of all, the garden shows spring growth, and we are totally curious to see what perennials and what flower bulbs our predecessors have left us.

I planted a few tulip bulbs in December, just after we moved in here, and there are some more plants coming out now that were left in from before. Crocuses and snowdrops grow on the side lawn (not many of them, though), but mostly, the stretches of flower beds that surround the path to the house and the front lawn are empty. Which means that we will be doing some planting this year - some plants for the eyes with nice leaves and nice blossoms; some plants for the nose, with good scent; some plants for the palate, to use as herbs or as herbal teas; some for the bees and bumble-bees to feed, and some plants that I just fancy having in the garden, like mandrake and madder. And we hope to get the garden set up with plants hardy enough to prosper year after year, and enough of the growth to keep the weeds down and the beds nice...

Friday, 19 March 2010

Comment Policies

This little blog of mine has gained enough importance to slowly become a target for spammers, it seems. Because spam-type comments have turned up only very seldom in the past, I have never voiced any spam-comment policy, but I feel that it is time now to do so.

If you have tried to comment on an older post, you will have found that comment moderation is enabled. Fresh posts can be commented on without moderation (pun intended), but screening comments makes it easier for me to nip a multi-post comment spam attack in the bud (there were about two of these already, and cleaning them up takes time and gets on my nerves in a major way).

As to the rest... I feel that freedom of speech is an important thing, and I also think that the internet is a very good and very valuable platform to say (write, that is) what you mean, feel, and think. However, I also feel that a blog post and its comments are something like a conversation between blog author and commenters, and if I'm standing around in real life chatting with a bunch of people about, say, ice cream flavours and discussing their impact on the environment and somebody suddenly starts to praise an ice cream factory that is known to mine the last glaciers, grand-style, for ice, or suddenly intrudes on the conversation with a speech about how we should all convert to the Church of the Holy Spaghetti Monster and dress up like pirates AT ONCE... I would feel quite pissed off.

And since these spammers are just delivering their bit and turn away again at once, it isn't even possible to start discussing them into the ground about how mining these last glaciers is the worst thing ever, and so on.

So here's the official comment policy: Comments are more than welcome, whether they agree with me or disagree with me, as long as there is some connection to the blog post they belong to. Unsolicited advice on what, where or how to buy something, product placement including unrelated blog or website placements*, buy-here links and other spam-type comments whether religious or not, will be deleted from my blog. Abusive comments may also be deleted. Comments are moderated for older posts to screen out the bad eggs before they turn up, saving you from disappointment after you click to see the new comment.

That's it. Now... comments, anyone?

* Pointing out a website or blog that is related to the topic of the blog post, or to the general topic of the blog is very welcome, of course!

Thursday, 18 March 2010

How d'you like your baths?

I cut the two bits (if you can call 2,9 m of cloth 2 m wide a "bit") of fabric for the side walls of the tent yesterday, and that should have been the last bit of cutting from the bolt for this tent. There's still some bolt left because we have a bit extra just in case and some more extra for making a crawl-in small, additional sleeping tent - what you'd call a "Dackelgarage" in German (translates as dachshund garage, yes, really).

The two side-wall cuts are currently taking their second bath in the tub, which will run the same course as its first bath and the two baths of the main piece: Run the tub with water as hot as it gets from our tap (which is plenty hot), dump in fabric, poke fabric under with a stick-like implement (also called a bath brush). Dunk fingers into water occasionally and swear (plenty hot, right?). Open bathroom window and keep open to let the steam get out.

Return to bathroom periodically to do some more poking and swearing. After a while, grab submerged tent fabric (possibly swearing) and rearrange in hot water.

After a much, much longer while, decide that water is cool enough to give the tent some additional tender loving care by trampling around on it. Take off shoes and socks, roll up trouser legs, get into the tub (possibly swearing again) and take turns around the tub, walking on every bit of the submerged fabric.

Get out of the tub again and realise that the water was still beyond "warm" and even "hot", but all that time hadn't been enough to get it cooler than "boil-a-lobster". Admire bright red colour of feet and legs. Optionally: Walk into the living room with bare feet and trousers still rolled up to drink the rest of your coffee, shocking a visiting friend with the colour in that process. Grin.

Drain water from tub and get the fabric to dry.

I'm currently at the "check back and poke periodically" stage with this bath, so I can still look forward to some bright red colour today!

Full points to you if you can catch the book quote in this text and pinpoint book and author.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

The Way my Days are spent.

For a while now, my days are spent like that:
I get up, I make myself a pot of tea, I sit down with it at the computer and spend most of the morning with reading and answering e-mails, blogging, and other computer stuff.

And then, my workspace is shifted to a spot on the livingroom floor that may look approximately like this:

Well, sometimes (for preparation of smaller bits) I even get to sit down on the sofa, but for the most part, tent-making means floor-sitting. Note the large cushion to sit on. The little rectangular thing is my block of beeswax for waxing the sewing thread (a very thick, sturdy linen thread), and beside it there's my cup of tea. The text on the cup, by the way, says "Alles unter Kontrolle" (which means "everything under control"), and that's an expression of hope, most of the time. What you can't see from the photo is that I amuse myself with nice music while I'm sewing. That is one of the perks of that job, I think - you sit down quietly, your hands occupied, and can just relax while having favourite musicians entertain you.

But you are probably more interested in the tent right now?
Here is one of the main constructive elements, innocent-looking as it might be:

This is the corner bit for the right-hand back corner. Its job? Holding up the crossbeam and tensioning the fabric across the upper edge of the back wall. There's an additional tunnel to be added that will cover most of the crossbeam and distribute the stress on the fabric more evenly, but the tent would function with these cornerpieces without additional tunnels.

And here's a closeup of the work on one other innocent-looking constructive detail, the pocket for the sidebeam in the top front corner:

It is a little blurry, but you should be able to make out the needle I use (one of the two needles, the other one being below the fabric at the moment). All seams are done in saddler's stitch (more or less saddler's stitch; there is no half-hitch in the stitch where the two threads cross in the fabric). Aside from a measuring stick, needles, a pencil and my resurfacing mathematics skills (right-angle triangle sidelength calculation, anyone?) you can also see another of my all-important tools for the tentmaking: binder clips. They are incredibly useful in marking a spot, holding down a fold or fixing something into place until it is sewn down. No tent-sewing without them for me, thank you!

 (By the way, did you know that the official German name for binder clips is... "Foldback-Klammer"? Very German, eh?)

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

It's going black and white (and coloured)!

Sorry, but no photos yet - the camera battery pack needs recharging.

However, I have different good news: The book is scheduled for the actual print run this week! Hooray!

I won't attempt to blog much more than that today, because just thinking of the book going real-ink-on-real-paper... well. Let's say I'm not thinking of much else today.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Tent Stuff

Sorry for the belated blogging - the Firefox update somehow slowed me down a lot.

While Sunday was a nice day for relaxing and taking a walk in one of the neighboring towns, I spent most of Saturday very diligently working on the tent fabric. Waterproofing tests are still running, though a favourite seems to be emerging by now (oil cloth, by the way, really stinks).

The main constructive element is sewn, and I am now working on the next bits - the anchor points that will keep the wooden structure for the back of the stall in place on the fabric. And after that, it will be time to provisorially put up the tent and see where the rest of the anchor points will go...

And tomorrow, I will hopefully have some pictures of the tent construction details already finished.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Finally: The Call!

Not only one, but two (almost three) calls that I can call out here today. If you know somebody who might be interested in either of these events, please pass the Call on!

First of all, the Call for Papers for the EXAR conference 2010 is up and running. EXAR's topic is Experimental Archaeology in Universities 2010. You can get to the full invitation and the registration form for the conference in Berlin, which will take place on October 8-10 2010, via EXAR's website.

And then there is the Call for Papers and Call for Workshops for our own dear Textile Forum:

Working in historical textile crafts can be a very lonely affair. To help remedy this, we are again organising the European Textile Forum for people working in historical textile crafts. The event will take place September 6-12 2010 in ArcheoParc Schnals, South Tyrol/Italy.
The programme consists of three parts: Free time to work, try out things and talk about textile techniques in the mornings; the possibility to attend workshops about historical techniques in the afternoon; and a series of short paper sessions in the evening hours. We would like to present current projects, reconstructions, technical problems or research work during those talks. Poster presentations, including a "show-and-tell" of your current project in progress, are also very welcome.

The museum that generously hosts our Forum is very close to the place where Ötzi was found, in a valley in the South Tyrolean Alps. With this quite early background for the Forum week, we do not want to set a focus on single techniques; instead, we would like to think about and discuss the question of what makes a textile. Is it the material? The production technique? The use? The properties of the piece? What is the difference between a mat woven from grass and a mat woven from stiff threads? What concept does every single one of us have in mind when the word "textile" falls?
Papers or posters about this topic, or papers and posters about objects that are not "standard textile", are thus especially welcome.

We want to give up to thirty textile experts and enthusiasts the opportunity to meet at the museum for one whole week, each with his or her project(s), and there is free time to work, chat, demonstrate and talk about textiles and textile crafts during the day. The museum is open to the public and we welcome other weavers, spinners, dyers, to come so they can also sit, work and talk with both guests and participants. With this opportunity for everybody interested in textiles, we want to help establish a better communication between professionals and non-professionals like Living History enthusiasts. Evening paper sessions and workshop participation are for participants only.

We have organised an accommodation and full board for the participants. The lodgings are two- to six-bed rooms in a guesthouse, all rooms with shower and toilet en suite. If you prefer a more luxurious room, you can book your own accommodation in Unser Frau in Schnals. Full board consists of breakfast, lunch and dinner; water to drink will be available at all times, and coffee or tea can be bought at the museum café during the afternoon and the evening. Meals will be served in the museum café, providing even more opportunity to talk textiles. The conference fee, including accommodations and full board during the week, is 350 Euro per person. Workshops can be booked at additional cost.

For the Forum, we are looking for both paper or poster presentations and workshop offers. Workshops will take place in the afternoon and can take up to four hours per afternoon. They will be booked separately by the participants, and teachers will receive a reimbursement.
Due to space restrictions, there will be no market held at the Forum this year. We regret having to take this decision, but we hope to offer you a market opportunity again in the next Forum. However, we will put up a little "exhibition stand" for small goods, info leaflets or books that participants might want to present or sell on Saturday. If you have something for the exhibition stand, please contact us per mail and tell us about it.

To register for the Forum with or without a poster or paper presentation, please submit your current area of research, the title and abstract of your presentation (papers not longer than 20 minutes) until May 2 via the registration form If you would like to offer a workshop, please register and send an e-mail to telling us the title and topic of your proposed workshop, time and space requirements, minimum and maximum number of participants and the cost per person (workshop cost plus approximate cost for materials). Please note that workshop offers have an earlier deadline and need to be made by April 15. The Forum workshops will be announced on the website on April 20.

For any questions left, you can contact us directly via

We are looking forward to a wonderful conference with you!

Thursday, 11 March 2010

I'm working on it.

If you want to know what "it" is today, it's both the Call for Papers/Call for Workshops for this year's Textile Forum as well as the tent for the market stall.

Writing the call for takes so long because, well, there are quite a few changes in comparison to last year, and we don't want to give a wrong impression by hastily written information.

And making the tent... well, everybody who has ever planned the construction of a tent/stall and then sewn that tent by hand knows how long that can take. Add to this the additional problems and challenges popping up - like the waterproofing issue - and it's no wonder that progress is slow. But it is there. After taking a nice, hot bath

the tent fabric is now completely dry again, and today it's time to test the construction basics by putting up the "framework". Most of the connections for putting up the wooden part will be temporary and provisional, since the tent structure has no stand-alone, rigid framework, but relies on combining wood and fabric. But I need to get a proper, hands-on evaluation of how large the inner space will feel in the completed tent, and I also need to mark where to put diverse bits and pieces for the construction on the fabric. So up it must go.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

I'm so tired of the winter!

After a short while without snow in the week before last, the white cover returned and now is still outside. We are in the fingers of another cold spell, and I'm becoming so, so tired of all the snow and the winteryness. Yes, it is sunny outside, but I want to see green! Flowers growing! Spring blossoms! I want to be able to sit outside and breathe in spring air - it is March, after all...

Sigh. Well, nothing we can do except wait and hope for proper spring weather soon.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Link to funny video

Instead of something nice and solidly medieval, here's something nice and fun, found on Neil Gaiman's blog:

Monday, 8 March 2010

Make it proofed - waterproofed.

As spring is creeping in and battling hard with the remainders of the winter, the weather is getting nicer and nicer and season start is rushing towards us, I still have to finish my new market stall. It is coming along - yesterday was bathing day, and the main part of the tent - almost four metres on seven metres - took a hot bath in our tub.

Now that it is getting closer to being a tent, one of the biggest concerns (my German expression of choice would be "die größten Bauchschmerzen" - literally "the biggest stomach ache") is how to get it waterproof. Seriously waterproof.

We bought heavy linen fabric in the hopes of it being waterproof due to its nature - some heavy fabric, pure linen, can soak up water and then get so dense and tight that it can be even used as a bucket. Totally waterproof. Unfortunately, it became very clear very soon that our specimen of heavy linen fabric is not like that. Yes, it is heavy, but the fibres will not swell up enough when soaked in water to get it completely impermeable to water, and thus I need some additional waterproofing method.

And that's my problem. I want to have the tent/stall as accurate as possible, but I will draw a line at non-secure waterproofiness. I need my goods (and myself, but the goods for selling are more important here) to stay dry no matter how hard it rains. And I am willing to compromise if this needs some modern trick - though I would prefer a period way.

So there are some possibilities now that I have already found, among them using linseed oil varnish; using oil paint from linseed oil varnish with a pigment/filler mixed in to paint the tent much as an oil-cloth (with the added bonus of decorative possibilities); using store-bought waterproofing liquids; it would even be a possibility to buy silicone at the hardware store and "paint" the cloth with that. I'm still undecided, I would like to test each of the methods but I am shying away a little from buying all of those things for a small test scrap of fabric, and am generally feeling quite uneasy about this part of the project.
And I'd be very happy about any input that you might be able to give.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Make it proofed.

I had a wonderful cup of celebratory coffee yesterday, to celebrate being finished with the galley proofs. So today, I will use the wonderful early-spring weather to carry the packet to the post office and send it off - next step toward publication: done.

I may have been sighing a lot over how much text there is, and about reading it all again (and again), but I also feel that it is absolutely wonderful to work together with a publishing house on this. I read the stuff, I mark the little typos that had skilfully managed not to get noticed by anyone, I write my comments about picture sizes and picture placement and single letters with special Czech or Polish accents that were taken from a different font and gaps a little too small or a little too large between words and special characters or between lines; then I send it off to somewhere else and magic! All the marked-up things are taken care of! By SOMEBODY ELSE!

Having done the layout for the thesis submission version myself, I can very much appreciate how much work goes into these things - because once you change something in the front of the book, the change might well ricochet further on, maybe to the end of the chapter or even to the end of the part or, if things go really badly, all to the end of the book. And re-checking and re-layouting some 500 pages and change  - believe me, that is not what you'd like to do on a sunny afternoon or a rainy one. So I try to be a good layout-wise author and when I need to make a change, I try to do the wording so there's only change in that one paragraph or on that one page. Wasn't possible in one case in the first run, though, and that really ricocheted for the rest of the chapter.
And when I tried to do my best not to make ugly work-intensive changes, I send it off, lean back, have a celebratory coffee (or two) and am very, very happy that I am not alone in this. Hooray for publishing houses and the wonderful people who work there!

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Uh, inspiration?

I distinctly remember having a handful of ideas for blog posts a few days ago - while in South Tyrol, and of course I did not take notes of these ideas.

Then I was back, and immersing myself in all the reading and all the other stuff that hopped around in my brain crying for attention, and gone they were, the little inspiration particles.

So instead of writing you some nice original content that might even have something to do with medieval textiles, I am re-posting you a heads-up that came from the Quilt History List over to another list (that at least has something to do with medieval textiles):

From the Quilt History List:

Dear friends of textile history:

The year 2010 is extraordinary for those interested in early quilt history. Not only is the Victoria and Albert Museum's Tristan Quilt now on public view in London for the first time in generations, but the sister quilt in the collection of the National Museum of Bargello and known there as the Coperta di Usella, will go on public display at the Museo Palazzo Davanzati, Florence, from April 24 to June 24, 2010 under the auspices of the Italian Ministry for Cultural Activities. These two quilts are known as rare surviving examples of all white figurative quilting attributed to a Sicilian atelier circa 1360-1400 (1). As such, they are key pieces in understanding the tradition of quilting from the Middle Ages to present day.

If you are not able to just swish over to London or if you don't even know what the Tristan Quilt is, you can have a look at some pictures here on the V&A website. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Soon, oh soon...

After the wonderful planning session in South Tyrol, it's back to the usual, and nose back onto the grindstone. I'm on the last bits of proofreading, having been very diligently reading about all day during the last two days, and I hope to finish today or, at the latest, tomorrow. Thankfully there are more pictures in the catalogue part than in the front bits, which makes reading ten pages go much, much faster.

On the other fronts, there has been some movement as well: The market stall sewing is progressing, and occasionally I even snatch a few minutes for knitting on the current design and planning for the next one. Once the more pressing matters - stall and proof-reading - are done, I hope to get one or two patterns out for test-knitting.

Did I ever feel unsure about being able to fill my time as freelancer?

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

The Perks of the Job!

I'm back from a wonderful and very fruitful weekend of planning for Textile Forum 2010 - and that weekend fully deserves to be titled a perk of the job.

We met with Johanna, the director of ArcheoParc Schnals, to have a good look at the premises, discuss planning details, have a look at the accommodation reserved for the Forum participants (real beds in en-suite rooms this time!), and meet some more people interested in the Forum idea.

So what can you expect? In case you have never been to Schnals in South Tyrol, let me give you the list.

A very nice museum with a unique concept, showing the connection between the alpine region and the lifestyle in this environment, with an intriguing architectural design?


An open-air area belonging to that same museum, with some outstanding house reconstructions that have no nails and screws in them?

 (If you don't have some experience with museum house reconstructions: There are usually compromises involved due to the requirements from modern building laws. Large compromises. Compromises including screws and bolts and modern nails and huge dimensions of beams and structures - things that do not mesh well with the old techniques. So no nails and screws is a very special thing indeed.)


Typical regional food that is amazingly, mouth-wateringly yummy? Like Schlutzkrapfen, Speckknödel and Vinschgauer Paarl with Brettlspeck, plus a huge variety of cheeses and wines that earn lots of praise? Food so wonderful that of course I was not even thinking of taking a photo, because I was busy with eating and enjoying?


(To make up for the lack of photos here, you can read this article from the Guardian. Or maybe you would like to prepare yourself for all the food of the region - go to this tourism site that also offers recipes!)

Lots of fun?


And last but surely not least, more breathtaking, amazing alpine scenery than you would be able to shake a spindle stick at?


Sounds good, eh?